With most of its off-the field issues finally in the rear view mirror, No. 19 Baylor will try to start 3-0 for a sixth straight season when its visits Rice on Friday night. It’s the home opener for the winless Owls, who figure to be fired up playing a ranked team at home for the first time since BYU stopped by in 1997.
Although Baylor crushed Rice 70-17 last year in Waco, interim head coach Jim Grobe is worried about how his young squad will react in its first road game of the season. Grobe is counting on veteran leadership to make sure his team is focused and approaching the contest as a business trip. “The young guys are the ones you worry about on the road,” Grobe told reporters. “Besides being in a hostile environment, it’s hard to get young guys to focus. You’re in an unfamiliar setting, you’re in a hotel, you’re libel to find some of the younger guys in the hallways throwing ice at each other, and running up and down the hallway doing crazy stuff. That’s why you need your older guys to set a good example.” The Owls have allowed 77 points combined in a pair of losses.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: Baylor opened betting on this matchup as 30-point road favorites and throughout the week the line has tipped even further in their direction – as of Friday morning the Bears were up to 31.5-point faves. The total hit the board at 65.5 and dropped a full point to 64.5 by the end of the week. Check out the complete line history here.
Baylor – DB T. Blanchard (Probable Friday, knee), RB S. Linwood (Probable Friday, neck), S C. Waz (Probable Friday, suspension), CB R. Reid (Doubtful Friday, ankle), WR P. Stricklin (Out Friday, shoulder), RB J. Jefferson (Out For Season, suspension), WR I. Zamora (Out Friday, suspension), DT B. Bonds (Out Friday, knee).
Rice – OL C. Patterson (Out For Season, leg), CB J. Bickham (Out For Season, knee).
ABOUT BAYLOR (2-0 SU, 0-2 ATS, 0-2 O/U): Quarterback Seth Russell has shown no ill effects from a neck injury that sidelined him for the end of the 2015 season, completing 40-of-67 passes for 424 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions in limited action. Running back Shock Linwood, who left Baylor’s 40-13 victory over SMU last week with a strained neck, is expected to play and needs just 48 yards to break the school career rushing record of 3,665 yards held by Walter Abercrombie (1978-81). The defense is led by end K.J. Smith and linebacker Taylor Young who have combined for 14 tackles and two sacks.
ABOUT RICE (0-2 SU, 0-2 ATS, 0-2 O/U): The Owls rank 119th in the nation in total offense with an average of 290 yards per game and tied for 121st in scoring (14.0) despite playing a pair of teams not known for defense — Western Kentucky (46-14) and Army (31-14). Quarterback Tyler Stehling has completed 39-of-68 passes for 383 yards and one touchdown while being intercepted three times and also leads the team in rushing with 17 carries for 81 yards and a score. Linebackers Emmanuel Ellerbee and Alex Lyons are tied for the team lead in tackles with 17 while wide receiver James Mayden leads the team in receptions with six.
* Bears are 6-0 ATS in their last 6 vs. CUSA.
* Owls are 0-6 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
* Under is 4-0 in Bears last 4 vs. a team with a losing record.
* Bears are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The Covers public is strongly favoring the massive road favorites in this matchup with 77 percent of the wagers on the Baylor Bears. Over is seeing the majority of the totals picks at 71 percent. View full consensus data here.